OPPOSING THE OAK FLAT FEDERAL LAND EXCHANGE
The Oak Flat Campground is a unique place – magical to many, sacred to some, a treasure to all. It’s an unparalleled natural resource for rock climbers, hikers, bird watchers, campers, photographers, church groups, the Boy Scouts and family gatherings. It is also sanctuary to an abundance of wildlife, ancient petroglyphs, and at least one species of endangered cactus. This area has long been prized for its recreational variety and, importantly, its geographic accessibility to millions of visitors.
Unfortunately, Oak Flat is now in danger of being lost to the public forever. Big corporate foreign interests want to privatize it. Even though what they want is all underground, these corporate interests insist they need the top of Oak Flat as well. Why?
The reasons are not easy to follow and Resolution Copper, a subsidiary of Britain’s corporate mega-giant, Rio Tinto, plays it close to the vest when it comes to straight answers. An educated guess may lie in how Resolution wants to mine Oak Flat. Block caving is their proposed extraction method. This technique frequently causes subsidence— settling and/or caving in of the ground above, as happened at San Manual, 50 miles south of Superior. Considering this probability, one can understand why Resolution Copper doesn’t want bikers and hikers and Boy Scouts hanging around on the surface of Oak Flat.
What about scenic, beautiful Highway 60 that skirts the Campgrounds and snakes through Queen Creek and Devil’s Canyon? Is it in danger of subsidence too? If Oak Flat could one day collapse, well, so might go one of the most picturesque stretches of highway in Arizona. Farfetched? Perhaps, but some think not. In one worst case scenario, a large portion of Highway 60 would be vulnerable to subsidence. Ferreting out the facts behind this risk is work for a good investigative reporter.
There are also water issues, serious ones that have yet to be resolved. It’s estimated that almost two billion gallons of toxic water need to be pumped out of Superior’s old Magma Mine. Originally, Resolution wanted to treat the contaminated water and then discharge it through Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. The Arboretum objected when they learned that the sulfate levels in the water could endanger their ecosystem. Resolution’s latest plan is to pump the mine water down to the East Valley and let the farmers use it.
Such unthinkable scenarios shouldn’t even be at issue. Oak Flat has been federally protected from mining since 1955 when the Eisenhower Administration issued Public Land Order (PLO1229), withdrawing the Campground from all uses other than recreational ones. Under this order, mining was specificallyoff limits. Over the years mining companies have made many attempts to rescind PLO1229. Now, Resolution Copper is trying and is doing so very aggressively.
On May 3, 2007, concerned citizens met at the local VFW in Superior to discuss the Federal Land Exchange proposed by Resolution Copper, a proposal that hands Oak Flat over to them. Also present at this meeting were representatives of Resolution and a photographer from a local area newspaper. The photographer asked many pointed and probing questions of the company. The next day Resolution Copper called her boss and she was taken off the story.
We all know how this works. Big business has a big stick. What their lobbyists and PR machines can’t control or spin, tactics like intimidation can achieve quite nicely.
Another tactic is the seductive and controlling power of the promise. Resolution Copper has indicated it might deed back mine land to a number of Superior residents. It has yet to happen. Then, of course there is that ever-dangling carrot, the promise of untold future jobs - what kind, when, and how long such employment might last is, at best, vague. This vagueness is understandable when you consider that once the mine is operational, much of the work at Resolution will be done robotically.
There is much at stake. The future of Superior and Oak Flat depend on what we do or don’t do today. To listen only to one voice is a mistake and so far, the loudest one has been Resolution Copper’s. Please listen to ours as well. Attend our next meeting on Thursday, June 28, 2007, 7:00 PM, at the VFW in Superior located at 405 Main Street.
We are not the anti-mining upstarts that Resolution Copper would like to portray us as being. We are the parents, retired miners, artists, lawyers, doctors, contractors, concerned citizens and voters who don’t want Oak Flat and Apache Leap bartered away in some back room deal. Deals made privy only to lobbyists, private interests, and Congressmen, like Rick Renzi, who promote personal agendas and seem to cater other than to the voice of his real constituents - the ones who voted him into office.
In short, we are Concerned Citizens who are against the destruction and loss of Oak Flat and Apache Leap. Yes, Apache Leap, that beautiful sweep of red cliffs above Superior, is also in danger.
s/Manuel Ortega for Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners Association
If you would like to learn more about Resolution Copper and the pending Federal Land Exchange, please visit the following internet sites:
The Eisenhower Land Order
Rio Tinto, Resolution Copper’s parent company
Link to a sample letter you can modify to contact Congress